Worrisome reports and apocalyptic sights are spreading during these months (and in these years) about the state of the PC industry, a market unavoidably doomed to collapse while dragging away a lot of tech businesses with it. Reality hiding behind the marketing lie is of course much more complex and much less apocalyptic compared to what they describe, but even in the worst case scenario the issue is almost never evaluated by the only viewpoint that really matters. That is the one of the potential buyer for all this unsold hardware which will soon end up in a landfill.
A late but due update on the lasting consequences of the failed upgrade to the laptop CPU: after two processors (X9100 and T9900), two memory banks, a fan and a cooling mat, that unfortunate attempt to install a 3 GHz dual-core cost me the replacement of the PC power battery as well. The battery was in fact replaced at the end of the past year, after months spent waiting to have a bit of extra money to put on the purchase.
When, several months ago, I decided to upgrade my laptop with a more performing processor, I never thought that some time later I would have been forced to go back on my steps: the system was going well, everything worked as it should with no problems of sorts. And yet the idyl with the X9100 CPU has lasted just three months, whereupon the PC has started to misbehave forcing me to put hands on several internal components, to waste time and precious money in useless purchases before I was persuaded that in the end the upgrade had been a failure.
Soon another technology that in the past years dominated the always-changing universe of computer hardware will bite the dust. That’s the decision by Intel, the merciless executioner of standards which the company itself imposes on the market and that in the upcoming months will rule the end of official support for the PCI bus. Developed by the Californian chipmaker in 1993, the PCI Local Bus standard has been implemented on all the motherboards for x86 and compatible platforms until 2004, the year when it passed on the baton to the younger and faster PCI Express technology.
UPDATE: After a few months the CPU upgrade turned to be a remarkable failure. I advise anyone against this kind of practice and I invite you to read the post regarding my useless troubleshooting efforts.
I purchased my latest computer in absolute emergency conditions, and except for an annoying, sound-related issue when I extensively use the network (a fact for which I would be inclined to blame and damn Vista SP1) I’m satisfied with it until now. But being obliged to spend a limited budget obviously didn’t hinder me to upgrade the system main component, the CPU, overlapping to satisfaction the pleasure of having a fairly recent setup to let me use it in scenarios that are a little less retrograde than the ones I’m usually accustomed to.
Here is my latest e-commerce purchase: a Western Digital branded external hard disk (USB 2.0 compatible) with 1 Terabyte of nominal storage space. The recent mourning still burns and to be sure this time I’ve spent almost 120 Euros (HD + basic case + shipping costs) to buy a no-frills HD doing the only thing I’m interested to, that is keeping my data (partitions images first of all) and keeping them well, as just one of the few storage brands I trust can do.
In these months the storage market is going through a particularly vivid and interesting period: the SSD technology continues to break speed records still costing however an unacceptable amount of money per single Gigabyte, while the magnetic technology HDDs wink at eco-sustainability and increase the number of Gigabytes, nay Terabytes available for users data.
There is some uncertainty on which will be the one, between Sony Optiarc and Lite-On, to market the first drive of such kind, but the fact is that DVD burners will once again exceed the maximum write speed limit going from 22x to 24x. Both companies will release the new optical drives between March and May, and though in practice the speed difference isn’t amazing at all, the new breakthrough shows that firms continue to invest in a technology with a surprisingly long life.
Parallel computing and GPGPU, the super-PC genesis between universal libraries and proprietary platforms
Far from slowing down because of the worldwide economic crisis, PC technology evolution (and particularly the videogaming peripherals one) continues to break records and Gigaflops, opening usage scenarios that was solely related to super-computers just a few years ago. Such scenarios are currently colliding with the opposite development of standards and API competing with each other, resulted from the desire of market supremacy or from the need to reach an agreement on a common computing platform.
Next December 9 will mark the 40th year since, for the first time in computer history, public saw a mouse at work. Four decades later, in the Memorial Auditorium of that same Stanford University where one of the most important inventions of the then-germinal information society was born, the academy and the industry will celebrate the “mother of all demos“, the start of a new era for the interaction between man and machine.
The tense fight between microchip and the pair plate+head has reached a new high in these days, as manufacturers have announced the introduction of technologies able to make on the one hand more desirable and secure the traditional magnetic hard disks, on the other hand more performing the always expensive solid state disks (SSD) based on NAND flash memory chips.
In the endless race to the immensely small, a typical trait of the integrated circuits world, the American giant IBM states to be the first chipmaker to having developed a reliable enough process for the manufacturing of 22 nanometers microchips. A technological achievement that, if not quite round the corner, surely pushes the final boundaries for the exploitation of silicon as the transistors’ basic element some years forward.
The last week of August has been the opportunity for NVIDIA to invite public and press to attend NVISION, a convention devoted to the technological vision of the historic GPU and discrete graphics cards manufacturer held in San Jose. No new products were showed at the expo, but the statements against the competitors have been clear: NVIDIA will continue to keep the performance leadership in the future too.
Summertime, a lounge for the most vacationer populations but also an occasion for big preparations by the PC videogaming hardware companies, that sharpen their weapons and introduce innovations waiting to run for the users wallets during the incoming fall, the Christmas holidays and beyond. The future of the marked, in fact, foresees substantial news spread on a relatively long period of time, with the entrance in the conflict of a new protagonist and sceneries of unprecedented technological evolutions.
There’s so much talking about the solid state disks, and how they inevitably are the future of digital data recording. But while the memory chips corporations like Samsung push in this direction, the companies specialized all along in the magnetic drives business don’t give hints of wanting to retreat of a single millimeter, inflaming with the announce of new technological breakthroughs what is prefigured as a tightened battle between microchip and plate for the conquest of users’ desktops.
Flash memories of the next future, or rather what many recognize as the Holy Grail of digital storage within a few years. A technology that would like to sweep away the “old” magnetic induction hard disks by replacing them with drives full of programmable chips, faster and less power expensive. A solution that, insofar as available for years, is still colliding with serious limitations. Limitations that now, it’s announcing, will be overcame soon thanks to the adoption of futuristic solutions.